Sunday, April 13, 2008

A mysterious pen and an aspiring writer

Twelve-year-old Audrey's life has changed a lot since her father became ill. He has a heart condition, and he must stay at home, resting, kept away from any sort of excitement that could damage his heart. He had to leave his position as editor of the town newspaper, and Audrey's mother is now working at a job where her supervisor makes her miserable, which makes her tired and short-tempered around the house. Audrey leaves school early, so her father won't be left home alone - she and her mother live in fear that her father could have a heart attack while no one is home to call the paramedics.

One one of Audrey's rare free afternoons, she is out in the yard writing a story when she sees a white duck. It reminds her of stories her grandmother used to tell her about a very smart white duck she'd had when she was a little girl. The duck seems to want Audrey to follow her, and Audrey can't resist seeing where the strange duck wants her to go. She follows it to a cave, and even though, years earlier, she'd promised her parents not to go into the cave, she follows the duck inside, and there is a strange old woman in there. Audrey finds herself spilling all her hopes and dreams in a way that secretly horrifies her - normally she is very private, confiding in the old woman her dreams to become a writer. The old woman gives her a pen that eventually reveals itself as having mysterious powers, and so Audrey's adventures begin.

I am always very excited when a new book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder comes out. I grew up on her novels, reading them again and again, particularly the series that begins with The Headless Cupid. This one was a sweet wish fulfillment story, but to be honest it is not my favorite. It seems almost as though it were written years ago, but not published until now. The mention of Richard Nixon and Golda Meir made it seem a bit dated, especially as they were referred to as though they were contemporary to the characters. I did love the character of Audrey - she is not a whiner, and it was great how she took on extra responsibility so willingly because of her love for her dad. I guess I expected her to solve her problems in a more creative, surprising way, so that it was kind of a let-down at the end, even though things resolved themselves nicely.

This is my second book read for Carl's Once Upon a Time II reading challenge. People are reading tons of wonderful books for this challenge, so be sure to stop by the review site to see links to the many great reviews other challengees are posting there.

The Bronze Pen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008)

Other B&OT reviews of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books:
The Magic Nation Thing
The Treasures of Weatherby


  1. The best thing about that cover is that it says "Loathed by Lemmony Snicket" at the bottom of it!

  2. I love that! He also has a blurb on the back that says "Zilpha Keatley Snyder is the sort of writer who makes you peek in the closet, check under the bed, and spend all night under the covers, reading with a flashlight to find out what happens next."

  3. Yet another author that I am unfamiliar with who sounds like someone worth reading. I'll keep an eye out for this one.

  4. Thanks, Carl. I'd recommend starting with The Headless Cupid, the first of a series of 4 books "starring" the Stanley kids. That one's my favorite, but there are a ton of wonderful ones. She's written dozens of books over the years.

  5. lol, I love the "loathed by Lemony Snicket" too.

    Where do you find all these great books, Darla? I had never heard of this book (or author) and it sounds great.

  6. Nymeth - I grew up reading this author, so of course when I see there's a new book out, I have to read it. There aren't too many writers from my childhood who are still writing books! :-p

    As far as finding them, working in the children's department at my library means getting a first look at all the kids' books that come through, which is one of my favorite parts of the job! The only problem is I can't possibly read all the ones that look good.

  7. maybe the 70s leaders references will inspire young readers to do a little research of their own.

  8. That would be good, Molly. I guess it wouldn't have been as jarring had the author come out and mentioned the date of the setting. I just read a fairly recent book that was set in the 80s, and the narrative simply said that and moved on, which did not make the novel seem dated (although I did flip to the front to see when the publishing date was, just out of curiosity).

  9. AnonymousJune 01, 2008

    does anyone know the connection between lemony snicket and snyder. "the treasures of weatherby" also has the "loathed by lemony snicket" line on the front. i'm curious if anyone knows...

  10. Hi, Anonymous - I believe that because Lemony Snicket grew up reading Z.K. Snyder, he was happy to give her an endorsement on her books. Here is a link to an interview with him, where he mentions that she was one of his favorite authors as a child.


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